Standards for people with sight loss


For buildings completed since October 2015, the following features will satisfy the requirements for sanitation provision.

These features are essential so that people who are blind or have a visual impairment, can access the toilet.

General considerations

  • Contrasting colour of door handles, door and door frames – always good to know where the door is and how to open it! 
  • An auditory alarm to warn of a fire (i.e not just a visual indicator)
  • An emergency chord alarm that is distinguishable from the fire alarm
  • An emergency chord that is identifiable and visible
  • Surface finishes of fittings and support/grab bars must have a particular level of contrast with the wall and floor (and the wall and floor should also contrast).

I have been into many toilets where there is a white floor, white walls, white toilet, white sink, white emergency chord  ….. a field of white glare to many people with visual impairments. I also find it a bit disorientating and I have good vision.


Lack of contrast colours in a hospital accessible toilet and written only information

The statement on what is meant by ‘visual contrast’ has been deleted in the latest Building Regulation Doc M. Further work is being done to evidence what level of contrast or finish might improve visibility.

Light reflected of surfaces can be measured – called LRV (Light Reflection Value) when a surface is illuminated. Nearer to 0 would represent black and nearer 100 represent white on this scale.

The difference in visible light reflected provides differences in these values.  A LRV difference of 30 was generally a good figure to use and to avoid high gloss finishes. This would enable more people to tell the difference between surfaces when their vision is impaired – which may cause a reduction in the hue (nature of the colour) or chroma (intensity of the colour). 

Equality Act considerations

For any toilet room / toilet block, the following are also ways to meet the Equality Act 2010 to complement the above.

  • Clearly defined toilet roll dispenser (or toilet roll)
  • Assistance to navigate to the toilet room
  • A Braille description is good practice for any visual signs (toilet door symbol, warning signs, how to operate equipment etc). 
  • Appropriate space inside or outside the toilet room for assistance animals.

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People with sight loss need to be able to find a toilet and use it to have equal access to sanitation. This might mean altering signage or providing someone who can audio describe where the features are in the toilet. 

I’ve been to toilets where the  toilet roll is randomly placed on the floor, a shelf or ‘pick a wall, any wall’. This would probably be unlawful as it creates barriers for people.

The last thing you want to be doing is feeling around a public toilet or having to get so close to see something that you can almost touch it with your nose. Pretty disgusting.

Poor lighting, flickering lighting – it all makes a difference.

It is also useful to consider that some people with sight loss may also have other impairments such as learning difficulties, hearing loss, brain injury, or a person be on medication which impairs vision – so they should be equally able to use an accessible toilet. 

Attention to lighting can help people with autism as well – so insist on new accessible toilets meeting the full British Standard as a minimum to feel confident you have tried to be as inclusive as possible.





Guest blog: Audio described toilets


This month we are looking at accessibility features for blind and visually impaired users.

We came across an interesting product that audio describes toilet layouts -so we were delighted to hear all about it from the company, ADi Access. Please contact them directly if you are interested in purchasing this access feature.

Find out where they are installed on this map if you are looking for a toilet with audio description.

About ADi


ADi Access is a Cornish company formed in 2014 to imagine, design and build products that give disabled users increased dignity and independence in their everyday lives.  Their first product is the RoomMate ®, which provides an audio description of the room layout for Visual Impaired users.

Visit: for prices and information.


My fellow writers mention hospitals a lot so let me start by asking how would you use a disabled access toilet if you were Visually Impaired?

Ask a friend to help perhaps? Or more likely your significant other? A member of staff? A complete stranger even?

Whichever answer you decided on the fact is that all four strip you of the very thing that we are constantly campaigning for, Dignity and Independence.

Related: Scots fear blindness more than other long-term health conditions

Regardless of your disability, whether you are wheelchair bound or Visually Impaired the options available to you are still extremely limited and having someone there to help you for such a private task is a necessary evil.

But then we had an idea..

RoomMate.jpgWhat if we could take the notion of the ‘helper’ who verbally explains where everything is in the facility and lose the human presence?

18 months on, through successful trials and 5 prototypes we’ve done just that with the RoomMate [room mate]

The RoomMate  ® solves a very big problem very simply. 

Unlike many of today’s solutions there is no need for technical input from the user, this means it can help everyone from children to the elderly.

Each unit is uniquely programmed to its location and, on detecting anyone that enters, offers to provide them with an audio description of the facility.




Steve Holyer was a BT Engineer at Goonhilly Earth station until failing eyesight forced him to retire early. He is now almost totally blind.

My vision for the future is for ADi to expand and provide further products to address the difficulties that I experience every day as a blind person.

He shares his experiences and tells us more about the benefits of this product

The Equalities Act has been responsible for many wonderful innovations over the years, with inspirational initiatives and products being invented that provide help, dignity and Independence for those of us living with a disability.

But, in my experience the words ‘dignity’ and ‘independence’ only really begin to mean anything when you, or someone close to you, loses them. 

Toilets are mostly built around convenience, cost and speed for the plumbers and electricians and although a facility must be designed to comply with regulations, this doesn’t mean they necessarily have to make sense. 

Believe it or not, Helen and I have yet to find two identical toilets, even in the same building…  

This probably sounds a bit far fetched when you consider the amount of regulations that have been written over the years but is it really that surprising? 

Can you imagine the electrician actually sitting on the loo and deciding the best place for the Emergency pull-cord instead of just choosing the easiest spot to wire it in?

Crucially, if you are confined to a wheelchair then you can at least see where the pull-cord is or that the hand drier is in the wrong place, miles from the sink but how do I?

The trouble with toilets is that they are just THERE, an everyday thing that people just don’t think about until a disability forces them to. 

It reminds me of a quote: ‘People aren’t against you, they are just for themselves’.

Even disabled access toilets suffer the same fate beginning with the simple sign on the door. 

The sign tells me that the facility is wheelchair friendly, not disabled friendly, so for me as a blind user I know that there is more than likely no provision to help me use it without a friendly pair of eyes to guide me. Where’s the dignity and independence in that?

Developing the RoomMate has meant we’ve met a ton of people, MP’s, business owners and doctors, you name it we’ve probably met them and I keep reminding myself of the quote above, that people aren’t against me they just don’t understand how they can help me’, well now they can.

The RoomMate is an electronic, wall-mounted device, which offers Blind and Visually Impaired visitors bespoke audio description in a disabled access toilet, thus freeing the person to use the facility independently.

Each unit is programmed to explain the layout of the room that it is in to enable the visitor to visualize the layout for themselves.

Having a RoomMate means that no third party needs to be present, whether a partner, member of staff or even a total stranger which avoids the potential for embarrassment for everyone. 

Each unit also comes complete with a high visibility door sign to indicate that the facility has a RoomMate installed.

Sight loss month – what is coming up?


This month we are focusing on accessibility in relation to the access needs of people with sight loss. Every accessible toilet must be accessible to all – including people who are blind or have a visual impairment (or indeed multiple sensory impairments).

We will be hearing from a guest blogger and company about audio describing toilets and looking at features of toilet standards that need to be in place to help people with sight loss.